We found Tornado at an adoption event at the local mall. I saw her and her sister sitting in a crate… Her sister, an overly-eager ball of energy, was clawing at the front of the cage, and Tornado was sitting in the back, quietly. The minute Tornado was handed to me, we were inseparable. She was quiet, absolutely adorable, and when I commented to my parents that she was certainly didn’t act like a “tornado”, she raised her head to look directly at me. Granted, any one of a number of things could have caused her to look up at that moment, but I always attributed it to her responding to the name – I decided to name whatever dog we got Tornado after Zorro’s horse – which meant that there was no way at all I was going to allow us to leave the mall without her.
From the very beginning, she regularly blew my mind with how smart she was. Because she was a puppy, when we were out of the house, she would have to go into her crate to prevent her from chewing on whatever she could find, whining in protest all the while. One day, as I was taking a high school math final, a rush of panic came over me for no reason that I could explain, and I flew through the rest of the test – which I barely passed, might I add – and raced home. When I walked into the house, I looked to Tornado’s crate, and she wasn’t in there. Flustered, I called out for her, and heard the jangle of the tags on her collar, a light “thump”, and saw her, tail wagging and looking happy to see me, trotting along the kitchen floor.
In order to get her used to the crate as a place for her, we would tie open the gate so that it would remain open when we were home and put her cookies in there, trying to make it a place where she would feel comfortable to bum around in. She had figured out that if she got her claw around the string at the top of the crate, she could unlock it, and then have free reign of the house, including the couch that she would sneak onto whenever we weren’t looking. She excelled at escaping other things, too, like any collar that wasn’t chain-based or a leash that we would have in the back yard so that she could walk to the front door and be let in. It wasn’t just that she could escape; her ability to seemingly reason her way out of her crate, her collar, or her leash always amazed me. Fortunately, unlike other dogs I’ve been told about, she wasn’t one for running freely through the town when she got loose… She would always come to find us.
She was incredibly attached to my parents and me, which was due in part to the shelter we got her from letting her be adopted way too early. When we got her, we were told she was around four to six months old – in reality, she was closer to four to six weeks old, when she still should have been with her mother. Because of this, she had some very weird quirks, like her refusal to eat her meals out of a bowl. Instead, we had to put wet food into a Kong, which is essentially a rubber chew toy that you put treats into so that the dog has something to do, so that she could eat in the kitchen with us. Her dry food was kept in a toy called a “Giggle Ball”, which a dog could bat around and kibbles would come out, which she played with regularly to determine the easiest way to get the maximum amount of kibbles with little effort. In fact, there would be times she would just play with it to figure out the perfect effort to reward ratio, as evidenced by the piles of food she’d leave on the floor.
I suspect her early adoption was also the reason she hated her crate so much; when a dog is raised by another dog, I suppose the desire to have a “den” of their own to retreat to would be natural. Being raised essentially from birth by us, however, meant that our “den” – the whole house – was also hers. We didn’t have a problem with that, of course, because her attachment to us was undeniably reciprocated.
For the past two years, a variety of vets had told us that she suffered from a series of problems: inflamed liver, low white blood cell count, kidney issues, thyroid issues, all of which we were told was an indicator that the time I would have my dog was coming to a close. Each time, she never stopped being the playful, curious, and ridiculously adorable Tornado that we all knew. Granted, she started having to take certain pills to keep things in check, but all-in-all, the quality of life she was living hadn’t changed an iota.
Well, except that maybe she got a bit more cheese thanks to my parents and I being giant suckers. We’re not above giving her something special as a reward for just being generally awesome, you know?
Just over a week ago, we were told by her current vet that she was suffering from lymphoma, and that Tornado had somewhere between thirty and ninety days to live. While I hoped that this would be like the other times that we got doom-and-gloom news about her, the lymphoma would do what the other conditions could not. Despite acting entirely normally the night before, at 3AM Monday morning her breathing became extraordinarily labored. She also had trouble standing up because one of her legs was severely swollen, to the point that any time she needed to go anywhere, I had to carry her. The biggest indicator that the end of things was near was her refusal to take her pills; while she never took them entirely willingly, she wouldn’t clamp down her jaw the way she did that morning, as if to say, “If I’m going out, I’m sure as hell not going out with that taste in my mouth”. I sat with her for a few hours, giving her ice cubes to lap up to keep hydrated, hoping that my gut was just being irrational. When 9AM came around, I had gotten up to brush my teeth after giving her a quick scratch on the head, and by the time I came back she was gone.
She had been a key part of my life for the past twelve years: as nervous as girls I were dating may have been meeting my parents, it was the approval of Tornado they really had to worry about if they wanted the relationship to last; if we went on vacation, we had to find a place that would accept her as well, ‘cause she was part of the family and therefore was going to go with us; I dove headfirst back into debt several times without regret after painstakingly clawing my way out to pay the vets that would keep her health up to snuff. I always referred to her as the one girl who couldn’t disappoint me, and she never did.
Some people, after hearing of her passing, have suggested that despite the sadness I am feeling, the bright side was that we could get another dog. But another dog will not be like Tornado, and while there may be another dog in the house at some point, it won’t ever be my dog. I remember reading an article once in a magazine years ago where the author talked about having owned dogs in the past, but his recently departed pooch was the last dog he would ever have because, despite loving the other dogs, his last dog just clicked with him in a way no other dog had. For me, I got that dog on the first try, and it wouldn’t be fair to another dog to come in with that sort of standard to live up to, as far as I’m concerned.
So, s’long, Tor. To paraphrase Butters in the South Park episode titled “Raisins”: I’m sad because you’re gone, but I’m just as happy that you were here in the first place. You’ll be missed terribly.